Caregiving isn’t easy. If you’re a caregiver for a family member, chances are there are times you feel isolated and overwhelmed. If you also work and/or have a family, the stress and the responsibilities you shoulder can affect your mental and physical health. Support from family, friends, professionals, and resources in the community is critical, especially when an aging loved one has dementia, experiences frequent health crises, lives at a distance, or is disabled.
Too often caregivers put their own needs last and then feel unappreciated and overburdened. As a geriatric care manager, I locate community resources and encourage family caregivers to take advantage of services such as:
- Caregiver support groups in the community. Online and in-person support groups give caregivers a chance to vent and connect with others who know what they’re going through.
Respite care. Whether it’s for a few hours, a few days, or a week or more, respite care gives the caregiver needed time off. Respite care might be home-based care and companionship or a short-term stay in a care facility.
Hospice. If the person is terminally ill, hospice care can provide the medical, emotional, and spiritual support needed by everyone in the family.
Time out for self-care. Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury. Taking breaks and staying healthy will help you avoid feeling burned out. Regular exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep, and taking part in activities that are enjoyable and relaxing are vital for your physical and emotional well-being.
No one is a perfect caregiver. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself and have patience with your loved one. When you feel frustrated or overwhelmed, take a deep breath and step away for a moment until you feel calmer.
There are things you can’t control. Your family member may have a health crisis or behave in ways that frustrate you. Try to take one day at a time, focus on the positives whenever you can, and remember that what you can control is how you choose to react to people and situations. Try to keep your sense of humor.
Asking for help is not a weakness. Don’t be shy about asking for and accepting help from others. Even family members who live at a distance can help out with tasks such as making phone calls and keeping track of finances and appointments.